Gospel reflections – Sixth Sunday of Easter
17 May 2020
John 14: 15-21 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always…. You will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”
When I first arrived in Malaysia back in 2017, the first Bahasa Melayu greeting I saw was this… SELAMAT DATANG… right in front of us there in the arrival area of KLIA, in big bold and beautifully designed letters. When I saw it, I said to myself, “Wow… That’s nice!” Eventually, I learned that it means WELCOME. All the more, it has become beautiful and meaningful to me. At that time, honestly, I was still feeling a bit sad for leaving my dear ones and my past life behind, back there in the Philippines, knowing that I would then be staying and serving in Kuching for some years. However, seeing that greeting somehow made me feel… yes, so welcome. Honestly again, I felt it was God, not just that airport bunting, warmly welcoming me, yeah!
One time, after Mass, after mentioning in my homily that I am a foreigner here, one parishioner messaged me this… “Father, you are not a foreigner to us. Even if you are not from here, please feel one with us, one of us.” Wow! It means a lot, right, when somebody makes you feel so welcome? You don’t feel alone. You’re not a stranger anymore. You feel connected. You feel cared for.
I think one of the very sad situations during this lockdown period is this… I think it’s more sad than being covid 19 positive… or getting unemployed… or having no source of income… or suffering from severe and prolonged hunger and poverty… I think what’s even worse than all these is this… when you experience all or any of these… alone, all by yourself… when you get so seriously sick and sad and you have no one, not even one, there with you, there for you. Sooo sad indeed.
On a positive note, I know of some people whose motto in life is this… “I may be alone… but I am never lonely.” Probably, these people are already in their 40s or above and are still single. They claim they are alone… but not lonely. Yeah… that’s the spirit… that’s what we call optimism… severe and sometimes delusional optimism. Oops, just joking…. But seriously, are you one of these guys? Alone in your life… but not really sad nor miserable? Having no partner… but actually happy, perhaps even happier that way? (Well, if one is single, he only has one bill to pay, haha.) If you are one of these guys, either by choice or by circumstance… I’m really happy for you. But if you are one of those who are so alone and thus feel so lonely… oh no… I’m very sad for you.
Today’s good news is this… And this good news is not only for those who are 40ish or above but for everybody… as in everybody… especially for those who are going through some kind of difficulty…. The good news is this… YOU ARE NOT ALONE. NO ONE IS EVER ALONE. You and I, we always have that Somebody. We are always in that very good company…. No no no, I’m not referring to that die-hard stalker of yours nor to that loan shark you’re running away from. I am referring to him referred to in today’s Gospel that says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always…. You will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” Yes, we heard it right. Jesus himself has assured us. Truly, God, Father, Son and Spirit, welcomes us always. AS THE FATHER, SON AND SPIRIT ARE SO ONE IN COMMUNION, GOD CHOOSES TO DWELL WITH US WITH HIS COMPASSION. It’s a fact… God is with us… always, as in always.
If you happen to come to our residence here in Foochow Road, Kuching, you will surely notice the Icon of the Holy Trinity right at the center of our chapel. And below that framed picture is the phrase SELAMAT DATANG…. Yes, you got it right. God, Father, Son and Spirit, welcomes you… no matter who you are… with all that you have in your life — your ups and downs, your smiles and cries, your faith and fears… God is there with you and for you… inviting you to be in communion with him, our Triune God of compassion. This is not just a cute airport banner speaking… this is not just a kind parishioner greeting… this is God, God himself, imploring… “Be one with us, please.” This is our triune God himself declaring… “I am with you always.” This is God, Father, Son and Spirit, saying… “SELAMAT DATANG!”
In this period of ‘isolation’, may we never feel isolated… because we are not… We are never alone.… We have God always with us…. And we have other people amongst us.… We have God’s creation around us….
Even in this difficult period of pandemic and precisely in this troubling period of pandemic, may we do something to help our brothers and sisters feel that they are never alone indeed. In our own creative and compassionate ways, may we help them experience God’s abiding and saving presence.
Even if we practice ‘social distancing’, may we even more practice ‘communal caring’.
Thumbs up to those frontliners who selflessly serve.
Thumbs up to those who come up with initiatives to bring hope, healing and happiness, whether on-line or on-the-go.
Thumbs up too to those who sign up in such, supporting such, participating in such.
Thumbs up to you all who make others feel they are never alone. I hear your voices echoing God saying… SELAMAT DATANG.
As we are facing this ‘new normal’, may we also welcome the inconveniences, the changes in our day to day doing things, for the sake of being more humane and healthy, more caring and careful, to ourselves and to one another and also to nature and our environment. Know that in these good and necessary practices and goings on, God is there as well.
And may a more humane, a more welcoming to all attitude… regardless of race, religion, political views, economic status, whatsoever… be part of this, our ‘new normal’. Makes me sick and sad when I see posts and videos that discriminate others, that condone or worse promote division or degradation. No to those that say “It’s China’s fault.” or “US is wrong.” No to “muslims versus Christians”. No to “migrants’ inhuman treatment”. No to “tycoons getting richer while peasants are getting poorer”… haaay, how I wish such becomes our ‘new normal’…. If there is one thing that this pandemic has taught us, I hope it is this… that we are all one, so connected to each one, and thus called to be caring to everyone. It has taught us this so painfully. I hope it has taught us this so gainfully as well.
Today marks the beginning of what our Holy Father has initiated, the “Laudato Si Week”. It’s theme says “everything is connected”. Indeed, they are. Indeed, we all are. After all, we people and nature, are all God’s creature. God dwells in us. God cares for us. May we also do so for one another. Laudato Si article 42 says, “Each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.” Again, especially in this period of global crisis, may our concern for the whole of God’s creation grow bigger and bolder, more deep, more dear, more daring.
Allow me to end my sharing with this anecdote…
FACEBOOK says… “I have more ‘likes’ more than you.”
INSTAGRAM says… “But I have many many ‘followers’, something you don’t have.”
GOOGLE says… “But you two are nothing without me.”
WIFI says… “Look who’s talking? Will you run without me?”
ELECTRICITY says… “All of you, shut up… unless you want me to shut you all down.”
WINDMILL says… “Aren’t you a mere product of me converting?”
HUMAN says… “Remember, I invented you. I am the one operating you.”
FOOD says… “Will you continue to be able to if not for me?”
NATURE says… “Take note, you only rely on me.”
EARTH says… “Are you not just a part of me?”
GOD says… “Please… no need to boast nor argue. Just listen to me telling you… ‘In my life… which is that which gives life… each and all of you are very much welcome.” And he said this with his loving smile to everyone… something which he always does.
“Terima kasih, Tuhan, for welcoming me and everyone. May I also do so… welcome you, welcoming all your creatures, my brothers and sisters. May we all feel connected and cared for… not just in you and by you but also in one another and by one another. With you, I say… SELAMAT DATANG!”
Fr Ramon Borja, SDB
Commission for Youth